There are not many memorable table blessings in Hollywood movies, but the funniest of all is from Talladega Nights. Will Ferrell’s race-car-driving Ricky Bobby always begins his prayers with, “Dear Lord baby Jesus, tiny infant Jesus.” Finally one night his wife interrupts his earnest invocation with, “You know, Jesus did grow up. You don’t have to always call him baby.” Ricky Bobby jabs back, “I like the Christmas Jesus best, and I’m the one saying grace. When you say grace, you can say it to grown-up Jesus or teen-age Jesus…or whoever you want.” Whereupon he re-bows his head and says, “Dear 8-pound 6-ounce newborn infant Jesus….”
This is hilarious—mostly because Will Farrell is—but comedy often takes us places we can’t reach with a straight face. We could wag a theological finger, like Ricky Bobby’s wife, and remind people that “Jesus did grow up,” as if we must wait thirty-three years for God’s saving presence to reach us. But the early church fathers would have loved Ricky Bobby’s prayer. In the 4th century, Athanasius could see what happened in the unimaginable miracle of God-become-human. “He became what we are,” he wrote, “that we might become what he is. God became human to make humans divine; the immortal became mortal to raise mortals to immortality.” In the very moment of his birth, Jesus became the meeting point of heaven and earth. Once God descended to take on the dust of earth, earth is raised to heaven. Saved by a baby.
Think of that on Christmas Eve when you sing along with Charles Wesley,
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
hail the incarnate Deity.
In fact, it’s quite alright to bow your head in gratitude and pray, “Dear 8-pound 6-ounce newborn infant Jesus….”
P.S. If you haven’t seen it, or seen it in a while, here’s Will Farrell at his best.